Manchester United may not have been at their sparkling best at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán three weeks ago. But a draw away in Europe is a draw away in Europe, and here’s how the prevailing mood music can alter perceptions of a result. Three weeks ago, that first-leg 0-0 came during a stodgy run that included defeats at Tottenham and Newcastle, and few had any kind words to say about it. But now, United are coming off the back of three wins over Chelsea, Crystal Palace and arch-rivals Liverpool, and suddenly seeing off Sevilla at home doesn’t look such a big issue at all. That first-leg 0-0 looks fairly handy now.
It should have looked that way from the start, if we’re being honest, because United have won 17 out of 20 games at Old Trafford this season. The only teams to come away with the sort of result Sevilla need tonight are Manchester City, who won 2-1 in early December, and Burnley, who drew 2-2 on Boxing Day. Tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool have all been dispatched without too much fuss. Any sort of score draw will see Sevilla through, United having failed to get an away goal in Spain, but that’s easier said and done if the Old Trafford form book is any sort of guide.
Sevilla aren’t going into this match in the best of nick, either. Since the first leg, they’ve lost a couple of big games at home – a 5-2 thrashing by Atletico Madrid, and a 2-0 reverse to Valencia – that make Champions League participation next season look unlikely. The history books aren’t their friend either: they’ve never made it past the Round of 16 in the Champions League era, their latest failure being last season’s capitulation at Leicester City. And they’ve never won in England. Having said that, they did force a 2-2 draw at Liverpool in this season’s group stage, and that sort of result would be enough to get them over the hurdle this time.
The three-time European champions, and reigning Europa League winners, are favourites going into the game. Can they reach their first Champions League quarter-final for four years? Or will the five-time Uefa Cup and Europa League champs make it through to the Champions League quarters for the first time at their fourth attempt? It’s going to be a blast finding out. It’s on!
Kick off: 7.45pm in Manchester.